What made me: Noma Bar

1. Being wordless in London

“The main thing [about moving to the UK] was not being able to use my language. I came from Israel, where I’d been studying Hebrew typography and illustration. Suddenly I found myself in a place where I couldn’t express myself with words or typography. That pushed me to use ‘sign language’ in what I was doing – and I still almost never use words in my work.”

Noma Bar at the café in Highgate Woods where he spends much of his time developing creative ideas

2. Cut It Out

Cut It Out is Noma’s travelling exhibition, based around an arcade-machine-sized diecutting machine styled to look like a dog. Built from a shoe-sole cutting machine from China, it can slice paper, rubber or wood up to 2cm thick into one of 10 different designs.

“The point of Cut It Out was to bring theconcept of negative space to a wider audience than just designers. Designers know negative space – we studied it at college – but the challenge for me was to bring it to the general public.

“Designers are my natural audience; my clients are designers. It’s exciting when my work [is viewed by] someone who’s never looked into this [machine].”

The design of this postcard, issued by the organisation that Noma’s father worked for, has had a clear influence on his work

3. Narrative

“Most of the art I’ve seen in my life is just what you see. I want to add a bit more. I’ve been telling stories through illustration [all my life]. I can show you drawings I did when I was 8 years old, telling stories through faces.

“[With much of my artwork] there are three or four lines and I’ve created a script with them. You’ll see something and then you’ll discover something, and a story will unfold.”

Noma’s work reveals itself as the viewer spends time with it. Even the back end of his Cut It Out dog hides another canine face

4. A card from my father

“One postcard always sits next to me when I’m working. It’s [labelled] ‘Save the Forest’ and it’s from my father’s forestry organisation. [The postcard warns against dropping cigarette butts in forests as they can cause fires – Ed] My parents used to give these postcards to people on their birthdays. There were thousands of them in the house. Every time they wanted to send someone a message, it was on one of these postcards.

Noma conceived this image of Saddam Hussein while serving in the Israeli navy, though he only created it after being demobbed

5. Military service

All Israeli citizens have to do mandatory military service.

“I was a paramedic and navigator in the navy. I lived for three years with eight people on a 20m patrol boat. I had to sleep with an M16 under my head, otherwise someone might steal it. If you give me an M16 now, I can clean it in under 5 minutes.

“Part of the reason I feel so comfortable [adding political messages to art] is that it’s a subject I know so well. I’ve been there from the perspectives of both a soldier and a citizen. It affected my drawings as well. There are many massive chunky black shapes in my work, something I was exposed to a lot of [in the navy].

The dog [machine] is drawn from there. It’s a bit of war machinery; it’s very aggressive. And it’s not a friendly machine to use in terms of how you operate it. You need to put your hands in the dog’s teeth to make it work.”

Noma Bar’s Cut It Out machine can be seen at the Design Museum in London until July 4.

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